Kenya: Muslims and Christians pray together over slum demolitions

 Christians and Muslims from Kibera slums in Nairobi plan to hold a joint prayer service this morning in Uhuru Park to appeal to the government to halt the demolition of their homes. A section of the slum has already been pulled down. On Friday, the leaders met the District Officer of Kibera, Omar Salat, who told them that, there were no plans to resettle evicted people. Land in Kibera under electricity power lines, road reserves and next to railway lines is home to more than 700,000 out of Nairobi's three million people. The human rights office of Christ the King Catholic Parish in Kibera has appealed to the government protesting against the evictions. Several human rights organizations jointly placed a press statement in the Daily Nation newspaper on Friday condemning the demolitions. The Catholic Justice and Peace Commission of Kitale Diocese has also protested. The statement from Christ the King Church, warned of the threat to the short-term and long-term stability to the community. The large-scale forced evictions were certain to lead to "chaos, violence, insecurity and greater poverty for the Kibera people" it said. The church complained that forced demolitions in Raila Village on 8 February had already caused the destruction of 400 structures including schools, clinics and churches. "This single eviction has led to the internal displacement of over 2,000 people. "Residents were given no notice that the bulldozers were moving in and have not been given alternative accommodation. "Forced evictions of this nature simply are not and cannot be tolerated in a democratic state that is to follow the rule of law," the church said. "Entire communities will be destroyed and many thousands of people will lose their homes, work, school, clinics and churches if further planned demolitions go ahead," it said. "Forced evictions of this scope and nature are unprecedented in Kibera. To render thousands of people homeless in a matter of a few days is in essence a campaign of unlawful slum eradication. This kind of a programme simply cannot be anctioned. "As pastoral agents on the ground in Kibera, we urge you to take our concerns to heart and respond accordingly in the interest of the residents of Kibera," the statement concluded. Fr Gabriel Dolan, Coordinator of the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission in Kitale Diocese, said: "Should the demolition of Kibera proceed as planned, in the next few weeks, we are liable to have a humanitarian disaster on our hands that might make the ethnic clashes of a decade ago pale in comparison." "Arbitrary and forced evictions of the poor are both immoral and illegal. If the Government needs to repossess its land as a matter of urgency, then it has a moral duty to provide resettlement for the evicted. "Slums may be an eyesore and an embarrassment to the new Government, who would wish to portray a new image of Kenya to attract investors. However, they are a reality that is not of the making of the poor. They are a constant reminder of how the country degenerated in the past decades. "A new Government cannot wipe the poor out in the flash of a bulldozer. It needs to restore their dignity and treat them with respect. That can begin by giving adequate notice, offering alternative settlements and consulting with the residents. "The world is watching NARC'S bulldozers. How it handles the informal slum dwellers will show how committed it really is to democratic values, human rights and service to the poor." Source: CISA

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